Top 5 2011 Summer Storylines

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by: Griffin Bennett

As Alice Cooper so iconically put it, school’s out for summer and the real work now begins for the Husky hoops team. The captains have been elected and Gant, Suggs, and Gaddy will be looked upon to lead the rest of the team in off season energy and dedication. The new freshmen will arrive in late July and then we will begin to see how the new-era Dawgs will look. It truly is a new era for Romar’s Huskies. You could divide Romar’s 9 years into three eras: The Roy/Robinson Era, the Brockman Era, and the I.T. Era (Sorry, Q). Yes, they did overlap at times but those players exemplified the identities of their teams. We are now heading into a brand new era where it’s identity has yet to be established. Will it be the beginning of the Wilcox/Ross era or will Gaddy finally put his signature on this team? Either way, this summer will be the start of something new.

Personally, I’m excited to see where this team is headed. The squad has more young talent then in any previous year and I could envision scenarios where either Ross, Gaddy, Wilcox, or Wroten could lead this team in points per game. I don’t think that could be said about most of the teams in the past. The paths to each of those scenarios begins this summer, so let’s look at the top five story lines that we will need to be following.

5. Forward Depth Chart:

I’m more sold on Darnell Gant and Aziz N’diaye being solid starters then most, but the depth down low will certainly be something to keep an eye on. As I have said before, I think Desmond Simmons becomes the first forward off of the bench and quickly shows that his energy and defense is too valuable. On the other hand, Aziz is by no means a finished product and I’m not convinced that Gant has the killer instinct to demand all of the minutes.

Until Martin Breunig and Jernard Jarreau arrive on campus and start to impress people, I’m going to continue to assume that both will be mid-to-deep bench players. I won’t write them off from creeping into the top-3, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Another option that people aren’t talking about is whether or not Simmons could actually sneak into the starting line up. People who’ve seen him play say that Romar won’t be able to keep him out of the game. He has some of the same hype right now that C.J. Wilcox had as a red-shirt freshman last year. Gant shouldn’t assume that because he’s a senior that the spot is his.

4. The Shooting Guard Battle:

Yes, Terrence Ross could play some shooting-guard this year, but he will be UW’s main threat at the 3 all year due to his size and defensive abilities. While Romar isn’t known for keeping to traditional roles, the depth at PG and SG make Ross the natural candidate to play the 3.

With Ross out of the way, that leaves Scott Suggs and Wilcox to battle for the starting shooting guard role. Suggs has seniority which is worth something to Romar, and Wilcox as the hottest hand on the team along with an increasing amount of athleticism that even had me impressed. Last year, we all had our favorite. I was leading the Suggs bandwagon, I know Craig was all over the Ross bandwagon, and Wilcox had his loyal devotees as well. It’s going to be exciting to see those players battle each other while they all improve each other’s game.

I should also mention that two freshmen, Tony Wroten and Hikeem Stewart, could also get some time at the shooting guard position. Wroten has the penetration and shooting skills to play an effective two guard. I could imagine a 4 guard line-up with Gaddy, Wroten, Wilcox/Suggs, Ross, and Aziz/Gant that could be very dangerous. Stewart has high hopes of earning playing time this year but his role seems destined to be the backup of the backup point guard. Speaking (writing) of freshman…

3. Freshmen Impacts:

Heading into every summer there are always unknowns about freshmen. We need look no further for examples than with our own Abdul Gaddy, who struggled, and Isaiah Thomas, who thrived. I’m very confident that Wroten won’t struggle next year. He already has some elite skills that should allow him to easily succeed. If Vegas was taking odds on Wroten becoming a first team All-Freshmen player, I’d put down a hefty bet.

Outside of Wroten, the rest of the recruits are relative unknowns. Most people haven’t seen the rest play except for edited highlight clips. Andrew Andrews is a player that can only surprise. Most people are expecting him to red shirt due to the logjam at guard this season. Stewart, on the other hand, has been labeled a “sleeper” and could always surprise.

I know that I will be eagerly awaiting updates on Breunig and Jarreau all summer long. If one of the two can surprise us with above-average Pac-12 skills, then I will be thrilled.

2. The Health of Abdul Gaddy:

While I have confidence that he will be fully recovered in time, there is a chance that he won’t. These type of knee injuries can take up to a year to fully heal and even longer for the player to regain confidence in playing on it. He is supposed to start lateral movement drills soon which is a good sign. If he comes back and plays like he was last year before the injury then this team could be exceptionally good. I wouldn’t call Gaddy the “key to the season” but he is a huge piece of the Pac-12 title puzzle for the Huskies.

We will have to keep an eye on his progress all summer long. I want to hear things like “fully participated”, “went 100%”, “back to normal”, and “playing hard”. This is one of those things where we have to just sit back and hope it all works out.

1. Development of Aziz N’diaye:

Unfortunately, Aziz’ summer began with bad news. He has undergone toe surgery which will keep him out 4-6 weeks. Unlike Gaddy, I’m not worried about his health by the time the season starts. I’m worried that he is missing out on a month or more of key development time. He desperately needs to work on his offensive post game and any missed time is not good. I think that Aziz’s level of improvement could be the biggest factor in this team’s success next season. He needs to learn how to stay out of foul trouble and finish at the rim. Most of his time missed will be while the coaches aren’t allowed to work with the players which is a good thing.

Can we really expect Aziz to make a huge leap forward? What happens if Gaddy isn’t fully healthy? Will the freshmen be ready? Who’s our starting guards? Do we have enough post depth? These are all questions that we will try to answer as the summer develops. Is it November yet? Bow down.